Voting laws in Wisconsin for convicted felons

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(Image: MGN)(KCRG)
Published: Jan. 2, 2020 at 9:41 PM CST
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According to the Wisconsin Department of Corrections, as of June 2019 there were more than 66,000 convicted felons in Wisconsin who weren't currently incarcerated but still could not vote.

As Wisconsinites gear up for four chances this year to cast a ballot, officials want to limit election fraud.

For millions of people across the country, and hundreds of thousands of people in Wisconsin, voting is an important part of being an American.

But if you're convicted of a felony in the state, that opportunity can be taken away from you.

"When a person is convicted of committing a felony, not just being charged but convicted of committing a felony, that person will lose his or her right to vote during the time of incarceration or during the time that the person is under the supervision of the Department of Corrections," said Wisconsin Elections Commission Public Information Officer Reid Magney.

In Wisconsin, a person can apply to register to vote only after he or she has completed the terms of the sentence, including probation or extended supervision.

From the Nov. 2018 election, the Wisconsin Elections Commission has found 53 cases of ineligible felons voting, including one case in Eau Claire County.

"In the overall category of election fraud or voter fraud, felon voting is the largest category of that. That's far and away the biggest problem that we have in terms of voter fraud in Wisconsin," said Magney.

But some local lawmakers want to change who in ineligible to vote.

State Senator Jeff Smith helped introduce a bill in 2019 to allow convicted felons on probation or extended supervision to vote once their jail or prison sentence has been completed.

"Once a person has served their sentence, paid their dues for their wrongdoing, that all of their rights should be restored. Which generally they are, except for the voting rights," said Smith.

For now, local and state officials take precautionary measures to ensure convicted felons cannot vote in the four upcoming elections in 2020.

"We remove convicted felons from the voter list. We send out a list of convicted voters to the polling place to prevent people who aren't eligible from registering on election day," explains Magney. "And then after the election we conduct audits."

Election Fraud in Wisconsin is a Class I felony and carries no more than 3.5 years in prison or no more than a $10,000 fine.

In terms of the actual votes from people who commit election fraud, election officials say since there is a secret ballot in Wisconsin there's no way to erase those votes.

The next election in Wisconsin is the spring primary on Feb. 18.